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How to Start a Business in the UAE

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The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is experiencing an economic boom. Over 20,000 new companies were established in Dubai last year alone. For international entrepreneurs, setting up a business in the UAE might be a lifelong dream come true.

Establishing a company in Dubai is a simple process. If you’re interested in learning how to do business in the UAE,this guide will go over all the essential information you need to be aware of. We’ll also highlight the importance of Accounting Software for successfully operating a business in the region.

Features of the Business Environment in the United Arab Emirates

The UAE has a fantastic business culture because of several benefits, such as a prime location, a strong logistical network, easy access to labour, raw materials, etc. This, coupled with introducing long-term visas, has solidified the UAE’s standing as an ideal destination for business people across the globe.

Business Etiquette: Do’s and Don’ts

Before learning how to open a company in the UAE, first it’s necessary to understand the challenges you might face in this dynamic, multiethnic environment.

DO: Dress Well, Act Well, and Smile

While the UAE is relatively Western, it has deep Islamic roots. It’s important that all residents dress smartly, stylishly, and modestly. Men seeking a local sponsor should always dress the part and wear a suit and tie for meetings.

Positive energy is a hallmark of Dubai’s social, entrepreneurial, and business trends. Being aware of etiquette for addressing people and social interaction is essential. Always use your right hand when shaking hands with the opposing gender.

Don’t rush into business. Taking your time to ask about someone’s day, health, and family will pay off.

DON’T: Flaunt Your Accomplishments

Everywhere you go in the UAE, someone is trying to outdo others by claiming they have the first, the best, the only, or the biggest of things. Don’t be an addition to this existing noise.

Currently, the nation is pushing toward modern minimalism, clean design, style and humility, and quality above quantity. Avoid employing the UAE clichés in flyers or online event invites when marketing yourself.

DO: Go out and Network!

If you are wondering how to start an online business in the UAE, keep in mind that basic email introductions and online transactions won’t take you very far.

The UAE is a nation filled with face-to-face events and conferences. Visit them, strike up a conversation with anyone nearby, and then keep in touch.

It’s important to forge as many positive personal connections as possible if you want to increase your clientele. Always have a stack of business cards on hand, one of which is written in Arabic.

DON’T: Expect Discussions and Negotiations to Go as Planned

The most important skill to develop for success in the UAE is patience, since it will serve you well in all aspects of your life and career. Long group meetings can be fairly disorganized: participants may fidget with their phones or arrive late.

Keeping business in the family is a way of life here. Therefore, that might affect your business interactions and decision-making speed and style.

DO: Immerse Yourself in the Culture

The UAE is a desert, but that only means that you get to spend cool evenings amid breathtaking scenery, go dune bashing, and do a bunch of other fun things.

Learn about the region, demonstrate genuine concern for the well-being of locals, and attempt to pick up a few words of the language; they usually welcome such gestures with gratitude.

Popular and Booming Industries

The UAE’s primary industries are oil, gas, and real estate. It’s what made the country an economic powerhouse. But other areas are growing, too. IT and renewable energy are crucial as the country is moving towards the future and focusing more on technology.

Both the automotive and aerospace industries are at the forefront of technological development. There are opportunities for growth in the retail, hospitality and food and beverage industries because of the UAE’s steady rise in mass tourism.

Small Business Opportunities

The following opportunities that help small businesses succeed in the country are available in the UAE:

Simpler Setup

The UAE has free zones that help SMEs and start-ups. Reduced operating costs, fast company set-up and procedures, and 100% equity retention are some benefits of setting up your small business in a free zone. Further, most SMEs are exempt from corporate income tax and offer tax holidays to employees for 15 to 50 years.

Relaxation of Foreign Ownership and Visas

New foreign direct investment law 2018 eases foreign ownership rules for opening the UAE market to overseas investors. The list of industries and activities eligible for 100% foreign ownership contains 122 economic activities spanning 13 sectors.

According to the new laws, businesses and investors can also get a 10-year golden residence visa by investing in a start-up in the UAE. To avail of it, register the business under the small and medium enterprise category (SME).

Legal and Regulatory Structures for Businesses in the UAE

There are primarily two options available for foreign investors interested in establishing an official presence in the UAE:

  • Establish a presence on the UAE mainland (one emirate).
  • Establish a presence in one of the many UAE-free zones. Over 40 Free Zones exist in the UAE, each with its own rules, regulations, and institutions responsible for licensing and registering foreign businesses in the zone.

Foreign investors can also form a joint venture with a local business or use a UAE-based distributor/agent.

Taxes in the United Arab Emirates

There is no federal tax code in the UAE. However, most of the seven Emirates have issued local tax laws. Branches of international banks are subject to corporate income tax in different Emirates.

Companies in some industries operating in the UAE are subject to corporate taxes. However, firms registered in the Free Zones are often exempt from corporate income tax for a set length of time, depending on the Free Zone.

In 2016, Federal Decree established the UAE Federal Tax Authority (FTA) to collect and manage federal taxes, including VAT and excise taxes. They include VAT and excise taxes on a few products in the UAE taxes at 5%/0%.

Companies file their VAT financial reports once each quarter, though this frequency can vary based on the date they registered the company in FTA. Each UAE Emirate has local customs authorities that the Federal Customs Authority administers.

What Software You Need

With so many small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) popping up in the GCC, enterprise resource planning(ERP) has emerged as a must for success in the region. If you want to keep up with the revolutionary rate at which the UAE is developing, the ERP system will allow you to do it at twice or triple the speed. It prioritizes resource planning and use, defines access controls, and assures customer satisfaction.

To manage your business’s finances, VAT Accounting Software can help you stay on the right side of the law. It’s a convenient way to keep track of orders, invoices, payments, and other financial transactions.


Kossi Adzo is the editor and author of He is software engineer. Innovation, Businesses and companies are his passion. He filled several patents in IT & Communication technologies. He manages the technical operations at

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